We come together this afternoon to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of Cordelia M. (Dee) Hensley. We gather to seek God and the comfort that only He can give.
We turn to God’s Word for the comfort for the promises
The prophet Isaiah gives us a strong and wonderful promise,
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. [Isaiah 40:28-31]
In this time of weariness and grief, the Lord God has promised us the strength we will need.
When Jesus was talking to his disciples about his upcoming death He spoke some of the most hopeful words in all of Scripture,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God a; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3)
Jesus wanted us to know that death is not the end of the story . . .even though it feels that way.
Will you pray with me?
Father, we bow before You this day and acknowledge once again the temporary nature of life. We look back to the beginning of February and wish we had known then that Dee would never really come back from her surgery. We would have made different choices, we would have spoken different words. Today we are reminded that we never really can be sure of even a single day of life.
Our Father, please comfort us in this time of numbness and loss. Help us to see beyond the loss and to cling to that which you have promised us. In the midst of sadness, grant us hope. We ask in the name of Christ. Amen
Cordelia M. “Dee” Hensley was born February 27, 1926 in La Harpe, the daughter of Frederick and Ruby Freeman St. Clair. On February 19, 1947 she married Carl H. Hensley in Ft. Madison IA. He died on September 7 1997.
Dee and Carl owned and operated restaurants in La Harpe and Terre Haute for 15 years. Dee also cooked for the La Harpe School District and the La Harpe Hospital and Nursing home before retiring in 1991.
She was a faithful member of the Union Church of LaHarpe.
Dee did at 5:37 p.m on Friday, March 1st, 2002 at McDonough District Hospital. She had just turned 76 years old.
She is survived by one son,
- Carl Luther Hensley and his wife Kathy of Port St. Lucie, FL.
- Two daughters, Constance (Connie) Wilton and her husband Charles of La Harpe, IL.
- And Carolyn Pollmeier and her husband Randy of Vera Beach Florida;
- Six grandchildren, Nathaniel, Sarah, and Andrew Hensley, Matthew Strauser, Brandon and Jessica Pollmeier,
- Two great grandchildren- Dalton and Lauren Strauser;
- One brother, Sheldon St. Clair of La Harpe and one sister, Ila Arnold of Lomax, IL.
- She was preceded in death by her husband and five brothers: Lawrence, Roy, William, James, and Cecil St. Clair
SOLO: You’ll Never Walk Alone
Dee Hensley was a spirited woman. She did not have an easy life. She grew up in a tense home environment due to her father’s gambling. She wanted out of the house and never had the chance to finish school. She lived through a number of difficult circumstances in her life and as a result she grew up as a tough lady. She worked hard and felt like she needed to fight for everything she had.
She married Carl after he returned from World War II. They had been married for 50 years before Carl died. Many of those years of marriage were hard. The family owned and operated a restaurant in La Harpe in 1957 or 1958 until they moved to Terre Haute and they opened a restaurant there from 1961 to 1971. During that time Dee worked seven days a week. After they sold the restaurant in 1971 Dee continued to work there. She then cooked at the school for a number of years and then helped in the kitchen at the hospital in La Harpe.
Dee was well known for her culinary ability. She loved to cook and people loved it when Dee cooked. She was especially well known for her pies. When they got out of the restaurant business Dee went back to her gardening. The garden was like therapy for Carl and Dee. She loved to tend the garden. She enjoyed canning, making pickles, and baking Christmas cookies (Which for some reason she always counted). Whenever Dee would come down to visit the kids in Florida she would smuggle food (string beans, a brick of cheese and other goodies) in her luggage.
I think it was safe to say that Dee was somewhat competitive. She was constantly fighting with her siblings when she was growing up. In fact when she went on vacations with her brothers Dee kept a diary of everywhere they went, everything they ate, how much they spent, what they paid for gas. Do you know why? So that every time they argued about some detail Dee would be able to provide proof and win the argument!
Dee loved to play all kinds of games. She enjoyed her Crossword puzzles. She loved Scrabble, Pitch, Aggravation, and just about any other board game. In a desire for accuracy, I must add that Dee loved these games when she was winning. She was not known a gracious loser . . . . especially if she was losing to Carl!
Dee liked to dance. Not many people knew this about her because Carl didn’t like to dance. On occasion she was known to dance with Connie or Carolyn.
Even though Dee was in the restaurant business for years she was not known as a “big tipper”. In fact, if you went to a restaurant and left a good tip there was a chance that Dee would pick it up because it was “too much”.
Carl and Dee had their struggles over the years but the last ten years or so of their marriage were extremely happy times. When Carl died, a big part of Dee died with him. Many of us knew that she was never the same after his death. It was as if some of her spirit was drawn from her. After Roy, Lawrence, and Vera, died it seemed like Dee became a very tired woman.
She remained active in the church and faithfully listened to our radio broadcast every week. On Sunday afternoons she often went out with a group from the church to eat (if they were going some place she liked.) She appreciated the kindness of Tom and Elie Koopmans and Howard and Marilyn Thie.
Dee usually went to bed early (7:00 or 8:00 p.m.) and then wondered why she couldn’t seem to sleep past 3:00 or 4:00 a.m.! Every morning when she got up she would record the temperature and what kind of weather there was that day. Nobody knows why she did this . . . just that she did. By the time most people were getting up Dee had finished the crossword puzzle in the paper and had several cups of coffee.
One of the best things to happen in Dee’s life these last several years was her dog “Nicky”. Nicky was a companion and a very special friend for Dee. She brought much joy into her life.
Dee always had time for a cup of coffee . . . .black, thank-you! She was also very protective about her teeth. She didn’t want to be seen without them. On the day she went to surgery she told the nurses that they could have everything but her teeth. They could have those onlyas she was getting on the table for the operation! And they didn’t get her teeth until she was ready to get on the table!
Dee had a wonderful sense of humor. She loved to give people a hard time in a playful sort of way. Sometimes it was hard to tell if she was serious or if she was kidding. She would give me a hard time and I’d give it right back.
Undoubtedly the thing that mattered most to Dee was her family. She worked hard so that her three children would have a stable home life. She scrimped and saved to make sure they had what they needed. And she was constantly talking about the important jobs her children had and how successful they were at what they were doing. She appreciated the time she got to spend with Connie and Charlie and looked forward to her trips to Florida.
She returned from one of those trips several weeks ago. She came into my office a couple times. First, she came to show me pictures of her Grandchildren. I think since Dee didn’t complete her education it made her very proud to think that she had Grandchildren that were so smart and attractive. The second time she came into the office it was to bring me a couple of Grapefruit from the Tree in Carolyn and Randy’s backyard. I knew she was looking forward to going back to Florida for graduation this summer. I think her comment was, “I suppose I’ll go back to Florida for graduation . . . “ But that is just the way Dee was. We know if she didn’t want to do something . . . she didn’t.
It was hard for Dee to express her feelings. It seemed that over the years she had learned not to be too vulnerable . . . so she wouldn’t get hurt. She wasn’t given to mushy words and would often cover her true feelings by giving someone a hard time. She loved her siblings even though she fought with them often. She loved her kids and her grandkids and was ecstatic when she was made a Great-Grandmother. There were many times in Dee’s life when she felt like she didn’t amount to much . . . but when she looked at her family she did so with pride and a deep sense of satisfaction.
I am going to miss Dee Hensley. I’m going to miss our visits in the office over a cup of coffee. I am going to miss praying with her. I’ve enjoyed watching her grow in her faith and she has brought many smiles to my face and my heart. But even as I miss her I have a hard time being sad . . .
The Apostle Paul wrote these words to the Corinthians,
Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, (2 Cor 5:1,2)
For most of us, thoughts about death make us somewhat excited and anxious. Death is the unknown and most of us are uncomfortable with unknown circumstances. When Dee talked about the surgery she was facing she was anxious. She wasn’t sure what the Doctor was going to find. She knew that she had had bad experiences before and the memory of Carl’s struggle always loomed in her head. She was concerned about dying. Her concern is something we understand. It was natural and normal.
When the Apostle Paul talked about death he also started to get excited. But his excitement was different. He had such a keen anticipation of Heaven that he told the Philippians,
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (Phil. 1:20-24)
Paul wrote these words when he was in jail. He was facing the real possibility of execution. But Paul did not fear this possibility. He knew that death would bring him to the destination he was longing for. Paul understood that death was not the end of the journey. And this is the attitude we must strive to understand today.
It’s like taking a family vacation. Sometimes the journey is long, the kids are cranky and obstacles seem to pile up. But when you reach your destination it is all forgotten. When you see the wide eyes of your children at the gates of Disney World the journey doesn’t seem so bad. When you gaze upon the Grand Canyon or look at the breathtaking mountains, the struggle of the journey seems secondary. And it will be that way in Heaven. When we stand in the presence of Jesus we will have reached our destination. The struggles of life will be swallowed in the wonder of Heaven.
The Bible tells us several things about Heaven. First we are told about all the things that will be absent in Heaven: tears, sorrow, death, pain, darkness, ungodly people, sin, and the curse from Adam’s sin. The wonderful thing about this list is that these are many of the things that haunted Dee throughout her life. She felt unworthy. She cared scars from the sorrow and pain in her life. She mourned her losses. Her entry into Heaven means that she is finally free from her past.
The Bible also tells us about the things that will be present in Heaven: other believers, the river of life, healing fruit, our loving Savior, Jesus, exuberant worship, a Wedding feast, and the unveiled presence of God. In Heaven loved ones who died in the Lord will be reunited. Questions will be answered. The plan of God will be revealed. And we will be able to look at all that has taken place . . . even the painful times and see that God had never deserted us but was working even in the hard times for our good. Heaven is when we finally become whole.
One of my favorite authors, Max Lucado puts it this way.
Take a fish and place him on the beach. Watch his gills gasp and scales dry. Is he happy? No! How do you make him happy? Do you cover him with a mountain of cash? Do you get him a beach chair and sunglasses? Do you bring him a Playfish magazine and martini? Do you wardrobe him in double-breasted fins and people-skinned shoes?
Of course not. Then how do you make him happy? You put him back in his element. You put him back in the water. He will never be happy on the beach simply because he was not made for the beach.
And you will never be completely happy on earth simply because you were not made for earth. Oh, you will have your moments of joy. You will catch glimpses of light. You will know moments or even days of peace. But they simply do not compare with the happiness that lies ahead. (WHEN GOD WHISPERS YOUR NAME p. 173)
Paul wrote, “as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9). Do you know what this means? It means that no matter what you imagine Heaven to be, the reality is better than your imagination. Do you imagine Heaven to be a place of endless happiness? Heaven is still better that that. Do you imagine Heaven to be a place where you live without fear, anxiety or pressure? Heaven is better still. Do you imagine Heaven as the best of family reunions? Keep trying . . . Heaven is better yet. In truth, we have no idea how wonderful Heaven is. What we do know is that Jesus will be there. And that reunion will be unimaginable in its greatness.
I believe Dee Hensley is in Heaven. I don’t believe Dee is in Heaven because I think everyone goes to Heaven. The Bible is clear, not everyone does go to Heaven. I don’t think Dee is in Heaven because she was a good person. Dee had her faults just like the rest of us. The Bible is also clear that no one is good enough to earn Heaven. Dee listened to our radio broadcast every Sunday and was in church whenever she was able. But that’s not the reason I think she is in Heaven either. We cannot earn salvation even by being religious.
I believe Dee is in Heaven because the Bible tells us that all we have to do is trust Christ as our Savior. All we need to do is believe that He died for us and rose again opening the door of Heaven to all who would trust Him. We must rest in Him. Dee loved God and wanted to live faithfully before Him. There were many things she didn’t understand, but complete understanding is not a prerequisite to eternal life. Lots of people get married without understanding what love really is . . . but they are still married. You don’t have to be theologically astute to trust Jesus. There were still lots of rough edges in Dee’s life but there are rough edges in everyone’s life until they get to Heaven. I believe Dee loved God and trusted Christ. And because of that fact I affirm that Dee Hensley is happier now than she has ever been.
So as we think about Dee’s death we are sad, and rightly so. Someone unique and special is no longer with us. But today we have to work hard to see beyond this world. We will miss her but we can’t feel sorry for her. We need to catch a glimpse of the big picture. Dee is gone from this world . . . but she has gone on to Heaven. The journey has finally reached it’s conclusion and the holiday is underway.
- All the questions have been answered
- All the tears have been dried
- She is reunited with Carl, her brothers and those in Christ who she has cherished and loved
- And she has looked into the eyes Jesus. For the first time in her life she knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is loved by God. She finally feels whole. The burdens are finally lifted. The bitterness is gone. The dancing has begun.
SOLO . . . Another Time, Another Place
Our Father, we ask that you help us to trust in that which is unseen. Help us this day to gain a sense of the glory of Heaven. Help us to believe that Dee is with You.
I ask your blessing on this family. Help them to remember as the years go by. Draw them close to each other and keep them close to you.
And I ask that you help us all to examine our ways. Help us to make our faith sure that we might someday be with Dee in the home that You have prepared for us. I ask this in the name of Christ our Savior and our sure hope. Amen.